D.C. Area Musician Phil Rossi Prepares for Release of First Novel, Crescent

D.C. area musician Phil Rossi is set to release his first novel on July 9. The book was first released in episodes via podcast, with 20,000 listeners discovering it in that format. Now, the print edition is set to be released this week and Rossi took a few minutes to chat over email about his book, music, his plan to conquer the Amazon charts and other projects he's been working on.

First, for anyone not familiar with it, can you give us a quick summary of Crescent?

Rossi: Crescent is a blend of horror and science fiction where the bulk of the action takes place on a space station. Now, by space station, I don't mean a shiny and enormous ring filled with people wearing pristine jumpsuits and playing tennis with robots—Crescent is a dark, gritty, and down right mean place. The station is the last stop on the way to the "frontier"-- a boom town filled with not only opportunity, but with an unsavory lot who will put a knife between your ribs if it guarantees a higher percentage.

The story follows Gerald Evans, a smoking , drinking anti-hero who comes to Crescent seeking early retirement and a quick fortune. He gets caught up in the nefarious plans of Crescent's corrupt mayor, Ezra Kendall, and ends up with his ass over the fire. Unfortunately for Mr. Evans, he's quick to learn Ezra Kendall's evil pales in comparison to the ancient malevolence that calls the station home—a living darkness imprisoned on Crescent that has been stirred from a deep slumber. Needless to say, this entity is hungry and pissed.

You first created the book as a podcast, right?

Rossi: Yeah, so back in 2007…well, really 2006 when I started the Crescent manuscript, the vision was for a series, not a novel. I'd do a handful of episodes from the hip, record them, and podcast them. After I had written just a few episodes, I knew I had the makings of a full-blown novel on my hands. So, I set about writing the book, while keeping the story-telling still very much from the hip. I wasn't much for planning or outlines at the time, so writing that first draft was a wild ride. I spent the winter recording some early episodes and promoting the book's release. It wasn't until Spring of 2007 that I finally began to podcast the novel (as in release weekly episodes). I was floored by the initial response and now it's at the point where so many people have listened to the book, the number is unreal. It's gratifying to have people tell me, "Well, I'm not a fan of sci fi (swap with horror, because I've heard both) but I loved your book." Apparently, I sound like Christian Slater when I narrate, and for whatever reason, people are into that, too.

So you're asking people to wait until July 9 to order the book so you can "rush" the Amazon charts -- explain that a bit for people.

Rossi: The concept is pretty simple: By having my fans hit Amazon to buy Crescent on the same day, at roughly the same time, the book will be propelled up the charts. The goal is visibility—total exposure. A lot more people will see Crescent if it's say, in the top 25, as opposed to being in the top 125,000. For the magic to work, it's imperative that people wait until the 9th to buy the book. On the 9th, starting at 1:00 pm Eastern I am doing a live concert and reading, streamed on the Internet via a service called uStream (details on CrescentStation.net). Sort of the telethon concept. "If you're enjoying this beautiful man playing this beautiful music, perhaps you'll consider buying his book." Maybe I should call PBS?

How has the book publishing process been similar to releasing a music CD -- or is it totally different?

Rossi: I've been very accustomed to the do it yourself thing when it comes to records—handling all the artwork, mixing, pressing, and the distribution (which shoebox should I carry to shows?). I'm used to having my hands in all pots. That's been a little different with the publishing of this book. I've had limited exposure to some of the behind the scenes stuff and for me that works just fine. My bandwidth is limited as is my knowledge of the publishing world. It's nice to have reliable people handling the logistics so that I can focus on promoting the hell out of the 9th.

As part of promoting the release of Crescent, you've started something called Rossi Cover Me, where you take requests via Twitter each Thursday for songs that people would like you to cover. You then select one, record it and release it on YouTube. Where did the idea come from and how's it going so far?

Rossi: The initial idea of covering stuff and putting it on YouTube came from the fact that there are thousands (ten's of thousands? ) of videos of people covering songs on there. My buddy Brian, forever of the Bad Habit, said it might be a fun way to promote my music—attracting people by covering songs that I dig. The idea has been floating around in my head since that conversation—but only when I was thinking of novel ways to promote the Amazon.Com Rush did I think of #RossiCoverMe. I saw it as a fun way to get my followers on Twitter involved and invested, and a great way for me to play music and perform while I'm buried under the mountain that is promoting Crescent's release. It's going great so far. Hundreds of people have been checking out the videos through YouTube, Facebook, and my own web site. Not to mention, it's just a lot of fun playing these songs and I'm discovering a lot of cool new music from what people are throwing out there as requests.

The first edition of Rossi Cover Me saw Rossi doing his version of the song "Old Number 7" by The Devil Makes Three.

There's a soundtrack to the book, correct?

Rossi: So, Crescent has a soundtrack that was composed at the time I produced the original podcast. Some of it's ambient, other tunes are full blown—vocals and so on. The tunes ended up being pretty industrial, considering the music was to serve as an aural backdrop to a gritty space station ghost story. Think Depeche Mode meets Nine Inch Nails. I'm actually giving the soundtrack away as a free digital download to people who buy the book. There's a page at the back of the book with a promo code. After the 9th, visit CrescentStation.net, enter the promo code, and the soundtrack is yours.

What else are you up to musically these days?

Rossi: Musically, aside from RossiCoverMe, the main action is tied to my latest podcast novel release, Harvey. Harvey has a full blown soundtrack (different in scope than the Crescent soundtrack) that goes along with the narrative in the book. Essentially, the book is about a musician, Calvin Hubbard, who gets kicked off a singing competition and goes to a small town in VA to record his opus and regain musical credibility. Something dark is going down in the woods outside of Harvey and its effects are seeping into Harvey right around the time that Calvin arrives. The album follows his experience as things go from normal to crazy.

For more on how you can help Phil Rossi rush the Amazon.com charts this coming Thursday, July 9, check out the details here.